“Verses are forever on tracks like ‘Xplosion’”

B-Real looks back on OutKast’s Stankonia and his contribution to the essential LP on its 20th birthday.

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Big Boi and André 3000 in March of 2001. Credit: Theo Wargo/WireImage.

OutKast’s Stankonia marked the ascendant point of a truly canonical run. André 3000 and Big Boi released 1994’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ’96’s ATLiens and ’98’s Aquemini before topping off the epoch with the unimpeachable Stankonia, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Halloween. While in conversation with B-Real on Cypress Hill, Serial Killers and his historic career, we asked the legendary MC about his work with the duo and his guest feature on the Stankonia standout “Xplosion.” Look for B-Real’s full-length TIDAL Magazine interview soon, and be sure to revisit Stankonia in its newly released anniversary deluxe edition.

It was a big surprise when OutKast hit me up. I was just so excited about the possibility of working with them, mostly because it was unexpected. I’ve always been a huge fan of OutKast, and I still am. They were changing the game even before Stankonia came out, obviously. They were on a huge run. I considered that shit an honor. I remember when I first received a call about it, I was like, “Oh shit, they want me to get on that?”

Once the initial shock subsided, it happened relatively quickly, but I still couldn’t get over how out-of-nowhere it seemed. On the one hand, I was kind of nervous about that aspect of it, but I was also totally stoked about it. There are songs on that album that you remember forever, and to be associated with that in any way is awesome, no matter how much success you’ve had. Aquemini changed rap and this came next. Everything from the album cover down to individual songs like “B.O.B.” helped change rap. The feeling of being on that album never really went away, because I remember the day I got my plaque and how special that was.

The entire thing was just very surreal, because I didn’t expect to be on their radar. I’m a West Coast dude, and at that time, especially, not a lot of people were asking me for features and shit. I’d get them here, there, but that one came out of nowhere.

Just look at where those guys ended up going. They blew all the way up and left on their own terms. That’s almost impossible to do. They’re legends and they created their own movement and sound. I just tip my hat to those dudes, and it was an honor to be invited to rap on that shit. I got mad love for both those guys. It’s still fun to think about.

I wish I had been in the studio with them, but we never got that aligned. I just busted out my verse and the hook in one session. Being able to do the hook was wild because it showed they really trusted me, I think. They were in Atlanta and I was in L.A. It was the early, early days of Pro Tools, so we were able to bounce ideas back and forth and I think it came together really quickly.

I thought the song was dope as soon as I heard it. I just wanted to make sure I was sharp on my verse. Like, could you imagine spitting on an OutKast song, especially from Stankonia, and not bringing your best stuff? I couldn’t live with that. Verses are forever when they’re on tracks like “Xplosion.” I was definitely excited, man, because those guys did their thing, and I felt good about what I had done, and they actually used it. You never know when you do a feature if they’re going to actually use it or not. That’s why you can’t get your hopes up. It was an honor just to be asked, but I always knew there was a chance the song wouldn’t make the final cut. I know they collected a bunch of songs, and since it’s OutKast, they’re always trying to make a classic, so the song had to be top-notch or it wouldn’t make it onto the album. We wouldn’t be here talking about my involvement today [laughs].

I’ve always been a huge fan of them, period, not only because of the production values but because they’ve been on a different lyrical planet since they began. Hearing my own voice on one of their songs has always been awesome. Sometimes it’s a trip, because I’ll totally forget and someone will run the song off and I go, “Shit, that’s right.” When you’ve been everywhere, it’s kind of hard to keep track of all the places you’ve been. I haven’t heard the song in a long time, but when it comes on, I’m like, “Yep, that’s right.”

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